Britain’s strangest catches

Salmon, trout, cod, mackerel – tasty, yes – exotic, no.

But just because the UK isn’t normally known for its strange catches doesn’t mean nothing unusual ever turns up on our shores, or in our rivers and lakes. But what are some of the oddest fish ever caught in the UK?

We thought we’d find out.

Electric Ray

Electric Ray underwater

Image source: Wikimedia
Zing! Imagine catching one of these off the coast of Cornwall.

Capable of delivering an electric pulse of 220 volts, an encounter with an electric ray could literally knock you off your feet. But while the fish does exist in deep water off the coast of the UK, it’s very rare for one to be caught by a shore angler. In fact, the electric ray is normally a resident of the Med and the waters off Africa, and South America.

But imagine his surprise when in 1980, a Mr Wills caught a 52lb 11oz whopper off Porthallow on the Cornish coast. A truly stunning catch, we hope he realised what it was before he touched it!

Puffer Fish

Puffer Fish

Image source: Wikimedia
You wouldn’t want to accidentally step on one of these!

Japanese sushi chefs train for at least two years to prepare and serve fugu, or puffer fish. That’s because the skin and internal organs of this native of tropical and subtropical waters contain tetrodotoxin, a nerve agent for which there is no known antidote. Puffer fish can grow up to two feet in length and when threatened or attacked, pump their stomachs full of air or water to make themselves impossible to swallow.

It must have come as quite a shock to one Mr S. Atkinson, when in 1985, while fishing from Chesil Beach in Dorset, he hooked a 6lb 9oz specimen. We assume he didn’t untangle it from his fishing equipment and take it home for tea!

Pilot Fish

Pilot Fish underwater swimming with a shark.

Image source: Wikipedia
The pilot fish keeps risky company.

It’s covered in black and white stripes, and normally feeds on the parasites that live on the skin and gill slits of sharks. We’re talking about the pilot fish – the one creature that can swim into the mouths of sharks, pick the rotting flesh from between its razor sharp teeth and live to tell the tale. But the pilot is normally found cruising with its lethal ally in the warm seas of the equator – not in chilly UK waters.

So it must have come as a bit of a surprise to say the least, when in 1997, Mr J. Richards caught a 10 oz pilot fish in the Towy Estuary in Carmarthenshire. How it managed to get so lost is a mystery.

Carp or Goldfish?

Is it a goldfish, a carp, a roach or a bream? Perhaps it’s all of the above. When Angling Times tackle editor, Mark Sawyer caught this strange specimen at Magpie Lake, Cambridge in 2012, he really didn’t know what to make of it.

His first thought was that he’d hooked a brown goldfish, but when he looked more closely, he realised he’d caught something altogether stranger. The hybrid fish looked to be the product of at least three species, if not more. It had, Mr Sawyer said, the head of a roach, the body of a bog standard goldfish, a fantail’s tail and the anal fin of a Bream.

Mystery Fish

Mystery Fish

Image source: UTAOT
A walking fish?!

“Caught” on film, “walking”, the seabed beneath a North Sea oil rig, if it’s genuine footage, this strange specimen has us truly baffled. It looks like some sort of Handfish – but that’s a species native to the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Using adapted pectoral fins to travel the ocean floor, this slow moving fish, pictured above, does look very similar to the one featured in the video.

What do you think it is? We’d love to hear your thoughts!